Digital Painting Tutorial by Vitaly Alexius

In this tutorial, Alexius show us the whole process that he uses to create his digital paintings. I really like the way it's explained and it's really cool to see how other people work, and also a very good way to learn new stuff, so check it out!

For more visit and "Aburod Terra" (Uninhabited Earth) Came to as a commission by Daniel Jeppsson as a cover for his music "Hardcore/Gabber" CD Album/Vinyl cover for his band "Recall"; which I was hired to illustrate back in November 2005. On November 23rd, 2005 after finding my artwork on the internet he contacted me with a request for an album cover. His exact words were "For my record, that i want to design, I need something DARK. The record will be called "Day of Evil" so something like destroyed houses, after the war, burning buildings, dead bodies in a city landscape would look great. It needs to be minimum 30x30cm at 300dpi". He also provided me with links to my paintings, which he liked, requesting a similar style, colors, and composition.

I quickly created 3 small sketches for the client to give him some options (sketches below). He decided to go with the second sketch, and so I worked on it until both I and the client were satisfied with it.


Just like many of my other paintings, I love to research before starting a piece. For this one, I went out all around downtown Toronto, photographing everything that I witnessed that day. One of the streets I passed through was interesting and detailed and so I decided to use it as my main reference for this painting. Photo 1 shows one of the street photos. Photo 2 shows some detail that has inspired the architecture in the piece and was used as textures in some places.

I usually start off with a gray canvas, that way the contrast values of the painting come out best, as I easily create lights and shadows. At this stage the painting is completely black and white, to better capture contrast values, a simple practice is known way back in the Renaissance. Sometimes I start sketching things on paper and then scan or photograph them, but here I started off sketching straight in Photoshop. First things first, I develop the perspective, by looking at my photo references and by creating a vanishing point. From this point, I create perspective lines of reference for all my buildings in the piece.

There are 3 vanishing points

On my next step, I leave the perspective lines and vanishing point alone and create a new layer, on which I start to block in the overall shapes, using a large square brush. Next, I make a copy of the vanishing point and perspective lines layer and set it above all my layers, set the layer mode to "Overlay" so I can always look at it in case I need to, by playing with its opacity. Once I'm done with the perspective I remove the layer. At this point, I decide where the light falls from.

For this piece, I used the following tools: Default Photoshop Brushes and the Smudge Tool. Bellow is a box that shows the effects one can produce with just default Photoshop brushes, set at 10% Opacity and the Smudge Tool set at30% strength. I'm pretty much using Photoshop bushes/smudge tools and a tablet just as I would use acrylic/oil paints with a brush. "Dab and Smudge" method predominates. Sometimes, when I wish to save time I insert textures from my photographs into the piece as separate layers set to "Overlay/Multiply/Lighten/Screen/Darken". The key is to just experiment with these layer modes for various effects.

Further development of the painting: Windows are set in place, detail start appearing. Using the same methods I put around 40 or more hours of work into the piece until I am satisfied with the resulting black and white painting. I constantly zoom in and out to create big and small details.

Next step is the coloring. I create a new layer, set it to "color", and start applying various colors to this layer, experimenting, looking for the perfect color combo/look.

When I was pleased with the colors, composition, and detail, the piece was sent off to the client. However, the client was not satisfied with the "thank" and suggested that I should instead add some burning cars into the scene. Following his directions, I removed the tank, then I put in a burning bus and a burning truck into the painting.

The final .psd file is 123mb, has no layers (as I don't tend to use a lot of layers during painting and constantly merge them to slow down the loading time) and is sized at 45x45cm at 300dpi. Detail shot of the painting, lots of details are usually invisible unless the painting is printed at its true 45x45cm resolution.

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